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How the Coolidge Family of Boston Saved Wentworth Mansion


Host to rich and famous

The Coolidges went a long way to restoring the mansion during their 50 summers at Little Harbor, pulling it back from the brink of destruction. Trained as an artist, Templeman painted in oil, drew, carved in wood and built model ships. But more important than his own art, his charm, wit and bohemian lifestyle drew a host of cultured Bostonians to Portsmouth. His Harvard classmate John Singer Sargent, a great American painter, was a frequent guest as was father-in-law Francis Parkman and Isabella Stewart Gardner, whose world art collection of 2,500 pieces launched the Boston museum named in her honor.

Molly Coolidge and her camera / Courtesy Wentworth Coolidge MansionThe Coolidges were a culture magnet for the elite – a supreme court justice, delegates to the Russo-Japanese Peace Treaty, men of letters, and even a surprise visit by President Roosevelt. While they might be considered well off, their new neighbor Arthur Astor Carey was descended from the super rich. Another Harvard chum, Carey bought land next door and constructed "Creek Farm", now home to the Shoals Marine Lab. Noted architect R. Clipson Sturgis, who restored Boston’s Old North Church, moved in next door at Little Harbor. Impressionist painter Edmund Tarbell visited "Wentworth Mansion" before purchasing a house nearby in New Castle. Sumner Appleton and Barrett Wendell, who both created Portsmouth historic house museums, were frequent guests.

As an accomplished amateur artist, Templeman relished playing host to talent greater than his own. His Portsmouth mansion with its dock, sailboats, gardens and expansive lawn was the ideal lure for seasonal guests. With his little yacht Theo (purchased from Arthur Carey) moored nearby, and with the luxury Wentworth Hotel visible in the distance, Little Harbor became a hot retreat for the Boston elite. Today, the Coolidge Center for the Arts, established in the 1990s, carries on that artistic tradition.

"That was his genius," says Templeman’s granddaughter Susannah Coolidge Jones. "He could do it himself, but he got others to do it too… He believed in the work of your hands. That was really his prayer."


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News about Portsmouth from

Tuesday, January 16, 2018 
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